RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 8: Enviro manager Impax says AUM rises 20% to £2.2bn

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Impax Asset Management, the London-listed environmental fund manager, says its assets under management have risen 20% to £2.2bn (€2.61bn) in the year to the end of September. It says its Impax Leaders strategy returned 31.7% over the year while the Specialists and Water strategies returned respectively 30.2% and 24.9%. Net inflows for the period were £178m (which does not include the net loss of £190m from the closure of Impax Asian Environmental Markets).

Two new corporate climate-related bonds have been issued, according to industry group the Climate Bonds Initiative. It said Hong Kong-listed polysilicon producer Gold Poly issued a three-year $50m convertible bond. And UK-based renewable energy firm Good Energy is raising finance via a four-year £5m retail bond offering to invest in solar and wind generation. The offer closes next month.
Norway: KLP and Storebrand have backed a demand for the new government to push the giant Government Pension Fund into making investments in renewable energy and other infrastructure projects, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The proposal is backed by environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Earth Norway. The fund declined to comment to Responsible Investor.


Australia’s charitable Benevolent Society, in partnership with Westpac Institutional Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has successfully closed its five-year A$10m (€7m) Social Benefit Bond – raising funds to establish the Resilient Families preservation service, which aims to reduce the number of family breakdowns and children placed in the foster care system in New South Wales. The Society said the issue “attracted strong institutional and philanthropic investor appetite” from the likes of Australian Ethical Investments, Westpac Foundation and CBA taking cornerstone interest.

Responsible Investment at Harvard, a group of students, staff and others who want the university endowment to adopt RI policies, has responded to a letter dismissing fossil fuel divestment from Harvard President Drew Faust. The group said: “We ask that Harvard adhere to the standards of transparency and engagement that President Faust herself extolls.”

Nest Sammelstiftung, a CHF1.5bn (€1.2bn) Swiss multi-employer pension fund that describes itself as an “ecological and ethical” investor, is on track to match last year’s impressive return on assets. Zurich-based Nest says that for the first six months of 2013, its portfolio gained 2.78% – or just under half the 6.4% return achieved in 2012. Last year’s return was also twice as much as the 3% Nest guarantees its near 16,000 beneficiaries. The number of Swiss companies served by the scheme is 2,718.h6. Governance

A group of UK investors including the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), Threadneedle Asset Management and the UK Shareholders Association have had their call for a review of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) rejected by the UK government. They had claimed IFRS was legally flawed – and had legal opinion from reputed lawyer George Bompass on their side. But the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said the concerns were “misconceived”.

The new Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, which aims to provide sustainability accounting standards for US listed companies, has announced a pilot program to help companies use its standards to disclose material environmental, social and governance issues in their annual filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Latest figures for women on boards show that female representation in the UK’s top companies’ boards continues to increase, the government has said. The figures were welcomed by Business Secretary Vince Cable and suggested the country is making “good progress” in reaching its target of 25% of board positions being held by women by 2015. Nineteen percent of directors at blue-chip FTSE100 companies are now female – up from 12.5% in 2011.

Canadian pension funds have responded to the Ontario Securities Commission’s consultation on women on company boards. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) is calling for the regulator to require all public companies to have at least three women on their boards, or face de-listing from the Toronto Stock Exchange. And the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation has asked that the OSC go beyond disclosure and encourage companies to adopt a 30% target for female directors.

Staying in Canada, the Social Investment Organisation says it is laying off staff to shore up its finances. “We’ve had to take some cost-cutting measures and restructure in order to become financially sustainable,” says new Executive Director Deb Abbey in a note to members. “Unfortunately, that’s meant laying off some of our staff.” Abbey, who took over the role vacated when long-time SIO head Eugene Ellmen left for a role at Oikocredit earlier this year, declined to be more specific to Responsible Investor. But she said in her memo: “I won’t gloss over it, it’s been a very challenging time.”